Professor Franz Delitzsch

Dies auch in Deutsch erhältlich

This biography first appeared in German in the ‘Zions Freund’ of December 1934.

Professor Franz Delitzsch was born in Leipzig in 1813 and, on his own testimony, of simple middle-class stock. He lost his father in 1836.

The position of the young Delitzsch was quite depressing, but a Jew, Hirsch Levi, took care of him. Without his help, Delitzsch would not have had access to higher education.

In 1846 he became a professor of theology in Rostock, in 1850 in Erlangen and in 1867 in Leipzig, where by and by he attained to the highest dignities of an academic lecturer and by his work, particularly in the field of the Old Testament, won the recognition of a very broad circle. Actually, no other theologian in the entire Protestant world has shown such an appreciation for the Old Testament, and collected so many pupils in this field.

Delitzsch’s interest always turned toward the ministry to the Jews. Early on he already entered into regular dialogue with the missionaries Goldberg and Becker. The latter also introduced him to the rabbinical literature.

His heart’s desire, that his Jewish benefactor whom he prayed for every day, would be converted, was heard; Hirsch Levi died believing in Jesus in 1845, having been baptized in 1843.

Delitzsch promoted the cause of missions, especially through the magazine “Seed of Hope” which he published from 1863.

Delitzsch produced many writings. However, he rendered his most remarkable service to the mission by doing a new Hebrew translation of the New Testament. The Jews of the East could hardly be reached by the Gospel if they could not learn the New Testament in Hebrew. The national languages are unknown to some of them while others have a strong resistance to books in those languages; and yet the largest number of Jews by far live in the eastern countries of Europe. The British and Foreign Bible Society undertook the publication of this work, and its first edition appeared in 1877.

Delitzsch passed away on March 4th, 1890.

He knew – like no other – how to talk to the heart of the Jew. Even when no response was heard from them, they paid attention to him; his writings were read by them everywhere and his motives respected as pure.

In its 9th edition of 1890, the “Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums” (General Almanac of Judaism), dedicated an enthusiastic obituary to him from the pen of Gustav Karpeles; and apart from the large number of Jews which he brought to the knowledge of Christ, he will continue, by way of his writings and his Hebrew New Testament, to sow seed that will be collected in the Harvest of God.

That there are far more missionaries to the Jews among the evangelical church in the present day, is attributable in particular to the testimony that Delitzsch so tirelessly laid in her midst.

The commentary by Keil and Delitzsch is surely one of the most in-depth and comprehensive Old Testament commentaries ever compiled – especially the volumes on the prophetic books. It is available as a free add-on to the e-Sword bible programme.

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